Learn From Mercedes-Benz's Reputation-Damaging Mistake in the Chinese Market

Your business's name is even more important than you may think.

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By Timothy Carter • May 3, 2021

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Naming a business isn't as meaningful or as significant as naming a child. But it evokes a similar feeling. This is, if things go well, your legacy: a business that could outlive you, providing innovation, service and support for staff members for decades to come. You'll want to make sure to choose a name worthy of the enterprise.

On top of that, your choice in name could impact whether the business accelerates to impressive, dominant heights or whether it fades into obscurity within years of launch.

That's a lot of pressure – and not much room for error.

Why your business name matters

Your business name will have a substantial impact on your business's success in several different ways:

  • First impressions. What are people going to think when they hear this name or see it written for the first time? This is going to kick off the brand-consumer relationship, so it shouldn't be taken lightly.

  • Memory and relationship. Ideally, your business name will be practically unforgettable. If it's unique, catchy and interesting enough, your customers will be much more likely to remember it, talk about it and engage with the brand more directly.

  • Availability and legality. You might have an idea for a business name that's fitting, interesting and extremely memorable. But what if some other business already has it? Choosing the wrong business name could get you into legal trouble later on.

  • Marketing and advertising. Some business names are more favorable for marketing and advertising purposes than others. Choosing a strong business name can make all your marketing strategies more effective — especially in the realm of search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing.

So what are the main obstacles that stand in the way of your business-name generation?

Finding inspiration

Everything starts with finding inspiration. You probably know what your business does (especially if you've already started writing a business plan), but how are you going to choose a name that completely encapsulates the concept?

There are many good places to start. You can begin by looking at other businesses and studying the most effective, memorable names. From there, you can get inspiration from almost anything. Consider words in other languages, history, mythology, science and information from other subjects that can help you capture complex ideas concisely.

Related: 2 Vital Things You Need to Do to Protect Your Business

Dealing with competition

You'll also have to find a way to deal with the competition. When you have a flash of inspiration that a certain name could fit your business perfectly, there's a chance that some other entrepreneur in your industry has beaten you to it.

Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to help you identify potential competitors and copyright restrictions. A simple Google search is all you need to test whether your ideal name is available; you can also search domain registrars to see if the domain is currently being used.

Related: Why I Spent $1.5 Million on Our Domain

Future-proofing the business

You might be able to come up with a name that serves the brand well as it exists in concept today. But what happens if your company expands and begins serving a totally different market? It's hard to foresee what's in store for your business in the future, so you'll need to choose a name that's flexible enough to afford you some versatility.

Overcoming translation issues

Just because a name sounds good in your native language doesn't mean it's going to work on a global scale. If you have international plans, you'll need to carefully translate the name and explore other potential options. Otherwise, you could end up damaging your company's reputation with an unintentionally unprofessional name.

For example, when Mercedes Benz entered the Chinese market, they attempted to market their brand as "Bensi" to fit Chinese dialect — not realizing that "Bensi" translated to "rush to die."

Related: What the Work-From-Home Boom Means for Your Future

Deciding on stylistic elements

Once you have an original, interesting, fitting business name, you'll still need to make some smaller decisions related to it. Here are some examples:

  • Capitalization. Is your brand going to always be capitalized? Always lower-case? Are you going to use Camel Case? What effects will these changes have on your audience?

  • Acronyms and nicknames. Can you turn your company name into an acronym or shorten it in any way? Is this beneficial for you?

  • Punctuation. Are you going to include the use of any punctuation?

The good news is that this doesn't have to be a rushed decision. Unless you're experiencing a major time crunch, you can usually spend a few weeks, or even a few months, whittling down your list of prospective names, doing your research and coming to a final decision. Use that time wisely and give your business the best possible start — with a name that will last it forever.

Timothy Carter

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Chief Revenue Officer of SEO.co

Timothy Carter is the CRO of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & digital marketing leading, building & scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and driving growth from websites and sales teams.

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